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Should you avoid certain foods during pregnancy? Trust your instincts!

Pregnancy nutrition

Worried about healthy eating during your pregnancy? Mums-to-be should weigh up the evidence before avoiding certain foods, says Jo Travers, a registered dietician and nutritionist who bases her advice on the latest scientific research.

A recent study suggested that the children of mums who eat lots of fatty foods in pregnancy are likely to be obese. It is a really interesting area of study, but it’s also extremely difficult to research. The researchers tested mice because you can’t deliberately make a mum-to-be eat fatty foods! 

“In France you can eat mould-ripened cheese, but in England mums are told not to”

There’s often little evidence when mums-to-be are told not to consume something. There isn’t much evidence to say you should completely avoid alcohol when pregnant. In France you can eat mould-ripened cheese, but in England mums are told not to. I’d like to see more research to establish the facts.

Pregnant women should make their own judgement call after looking at all the evidence. For example, we are told not to eat runny eggs, but that advice was given when lots of eggs had salmonella. Today, there’s only a very slim chance of non-organic eggs containing salmonella. 

It’s not hard to balance your nutrition in pregnancy. There’s an end point, it’s not going to be forever. It’s about getting a healthy balance. You simply need a bit of protein, some good whole grains, slow release carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. 

“Eat when you’re hungry, even if it’s the middle of the night”

Morning sickness can last for months. The key is to eat what you can and keep your energy up. If you can only cope with toast, have that. Eat when you’re hungry, even if it’s the middle of the night. Listen to your body.

I craved chocolate in my last few weeks of pregnancy – I ate so much of it! But as soon as I had the baby I didn’t want to eat anything sweet. If you have cravings, give in. Don’t feel guilty.

The baby will usually get whatever he needs, although it might be at the expense of your maternal stores! The foetus is protected very well. Midwives often recommend a pregnancy supplement. It’s not as good as vitamins from food, but it’s an insurance policy.

You will gain weight. Part of the function of pregnancy is storing energy, putting fat around the hips and bottom. Don’t feel bad about it, it’s normal. But it is good to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight at some point if you can. There’s no reason why you have to lose weight quickly. It can be a gradual process. 

“If you live on chocolate biscuits for a few weeks, you’ll be alright”

Postnatal nutrition is so important. Eat extra protein to recover quickly from a c-section or tearing. It really helps the healing process. 

Stockpile healthy, nutritious meals for when you’re too tired to cook when you’re looking after a baby. But don’t stress – your body is very resilient. If you live on chocolate biscuits for a few weeks, you’ll be alright. 

Feed your bump!

Try wholemeal pasta with spinach, ricotta and salmon. The slow-release carbs will give you lots of energy and the spinach boosts folic acid levels. Calcium in the low-fat cheese aids baby’s bone development and the fish gives you omega 3 fatty acids.

Essential vitamins

  • 400mg of folic acid is needed before conception until 12 weeks
  • 10mg of Vitamin D is required daily during pregnancy


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